Amidst a beautiful sunset, Shu is violently whisked away to a grim future devoid of water, and empty of hope; a place where children are forced to become soldiers, and kill countless others in the name of King Hamdo. Shu's companion is a mysterious girl named La La Ru, who may hold the key to survival. Now, he must concentrate on the only things that matter: escaping Hellywood, and finding a way home.
StoryAnime with inspirational humanitarian messages are exceedingly hard to come by. Most attempts get bogged down in contrivances, never moving beyond manipulative, hackneyed tragedies to stir viewers into some kind of reaction. This is why, when a show like Now and Then, Here and There comes along, I can't help but pinch myself. Although NTHT's mild sci-fi universe removes it from any direct association with historical wars, its powerful themes of child soldiers, rape, and state terrorism should be familiar to anyone who switches on the news once in a while. Moreover, regardless of life experience or education, nobody will struggle to 'get it' - NTHT hammers home the message with such brutal simplicity that it's accessible even to a child. In fact, I suspect that this is precisely the point. The show is in part about a mad ruler, Hamdo, and the way his madness comes rolling down the proverbial hill to swamp the nation in senseless war. While imperialism is a universal tragedy, and one that's plagued humanity since the birth of nations, NTHT's twist is to put a brave face on this old and common theme. That face happens to be the adolescent protagonist Shu, who pulls the plug on Hamdo's bloodbath by influencing everyone with his relentless sense of justice. Much friction in the plot centres on him trying to cope with people's defeatist perspectives on war and changing them. If Takahata's seminal Grave of the Fireflies is a non-judgemental look at the loss of innocence, NTHT actively invites its audience to take a stance on the rights and wrongs of that loss. Shu's brand of pacifism won't convince everyone, of course, but the show would hardly be masterful if it promised bland, easy-to-swallow solutions. More importantly, while the series takes a pacifist stance on the question of violence, it still leaves enough room for others to form their own conclusions.AnimationDon't judge an anime by its screenshots. I say this because I'm sure some can't help raising an eyebrow at the lacklustre character designs and generic backgrounds. Indeed, while a flashier concept design wouldn't have hurt, neither does NTHT need it. The animation is simply superfluous to its message; it looks decent enough to avoid petty distractions (motion is satin-smooth, for example), but it shies away from frazzling retinas with pointless special effects.SoundIn a similar minimalist vein to the animation, the soundtrack holds back most of the time. The opening theme is a pleasant enough instrumental, but the ending theme is so infinitely slow that I've never bothered to sit through it.CharactersA theory in Social Psychology asserts that minorities can influence a majority population, but to do this they must be consistent - their message has to be unwavering. Shuzo Matsutani, the plucky protagonist, is the theory put into practice. After suffering a comical defeat at kendo training, his opponent says to him that he can't win just by charging in blindly. Shu's puzzled response is, 'I can't? Really?' Indeed, he's a witless champ (sometimes a woeful chump) but a fully determined one. This is also the reason why he's the only hero that could succeed in NTHT's defeatist context; while everyone around him splashes helplessly in the tide of anarchy, he remains a moral anchor, always doing the right thing and never giving in to despair. By no means does his staunch goodness make him passive or uninteresting - in fact, his behaviour raises controversial questions all of its own. For example, is a shout of 'daijoubu' the right response to every complex tragedy? Shu believes it is; the audience can make up its own mind. He's not the only character to stir viewers into emotional and intellectual conflict. Lady Abelia, while a brave, capable second-in-command to Hamdo, also gives orders for torture, rape and kidnapping of children. Nabuca, a conscientious leader in Hamdo's army is also a willing tool of oppression for his own selfish ends. Many of the characters are a mixture of victim and villain, each giving the general impression that, had the circumstances been kinder, they could have been positive people like Shu.OverallIf you're looking for a provocative experience, switch off Gundam Wing or Code Geass or whatever confused, pseudo-political fluff you're watching. Instead, try this straight-talking anime with an invigorating perspective on the horrors of war. Carving a bold pacifist path through the jungle of moral what-ifs, NTHT is a tale of human endurance the likes of which hasn't graced our world since Grave of the Fireflies.
StoryThe story is the best part of the series. However, it is important to know that NTHT's plot develops slowly at first. So if you don't like lots of dialogue and want more action, this anime probably would not be a good watch. NTHT's strength lies in its ability to stir emotions through great plot and character development. The beginning episodes focus on laying out the story, characters, and setting. In the middle of the plot, expect a bit of dialogue because it is slowly building up momentum to the series great climax. The ending has its own twists and turns, and it will keep you on the edge of your chair until the very end. AnimationThe animation of Now and Then, Here and There (NTHT) is a bit plain. There aren't any special CGI effects or anything remotely spectacular. However, it has nice crisp, clear flowing animation that is pleasing to the eyes. The animation style is quite well done for its time. Characters do not have big glassy eyes, but rather normal circular ones with a little depth. Though work was put into creating distinctive animated characters, it was just enough to make them appealing. The opening sequence is quite plain and serves more of an opening credits introducing the characters. The ending sequence is beautiful, soft-hearted and shows nice background scenes.SoundIn my opinion, this is the one area that NTHT was most deficient. The only memorable songs were the opening and closing theme "Komoriuta". Although the opening theme was filled with warmth, it didn't quite fit the overall feeling of NTHT. However, the closing theme perfectly fits the dramatic, melancholy tone of the series. Background music was good enough to express the current situation, but it didn't quite invoke major mood changes or memorability. Moreover, voice acting for all the characters was well done. It is clear that the seiyuu tried their best to express as much emotion as possible into every character.CharactersThe characters in NTHT are quite memorable. The creator carefully devised good distinctive characters with different personalities that allow you to easily associate with them. Shu is a typical Japanese boy that is forced to face the hardships of a new desert world. He always looks forward to the future and tries not comfort others the best he can in their times of need. Although Lala-Ru plays an important role in the story, she serves more as a passive character. She doesn't speak much, but she is more important than she appears. In contrast, Sara's character is quite memorable and maybe the character with the most character development. Like Shu, she was forcibly taken into the desert world. Of all the characters in the series, I believe that she is the most memorable. Her personality throughout the duration of the series changes significantly. As mentioned before, this anime is a drama, so expect more dialogue than explosive action scenes. The distinctiveness of each character is what makes NTHT unique and special. OverallIf you love to have your emotions stirred up, NTHT is a must see. The ending is not a let down, and it actually comes full circle. However, if you like action/fighting/mecha anime, you would probably become bored with the dialogue and the lack of fighting and action scenes. I really loved this anime. It has a special flare like Crest of the Stars (Seikai no Monshou). When you first watch the anime, you probably will be thinking, "Well this isn't really exciting." But this anime definitely has a natural charm, always leaving you with the feeling to see the next episode. And before you know it, you become sucked into the characters and plot, and you'll just want to see it to the end. NTHT is a definite must see for drama anime watchers.
Now and Then, Here and There follows the story of an innocent boy named Shu who is dragged into a futuristic world that has fallen into turmoil and chaos. He is one of those 'I don't think anyone should die' characters that can sometimes grate on people's nerves, but he has such a sincerity about him that it's hard not to appreciate his viewpoint. (Also, the fact that he is in a world where war is on a break out and people are being murdered left and right helps the viewer to follow his point). This anime explores the human conidition perfectly - the fact that humans are innately selfish, innately cruel and yet somehow pure, but too easily tainted. It explores their willingness to sacrifice anyone in their way for their own goods. One of the best and most powerful parts of this show revolves around two of the characters: Nabuca and Tabool. Both characters were forced to join the war efforts as children - both even came from the same town. However, their psychological development is completely different. Nabuca never fully believes in the war, although he chooses not to cause dissension. He even takes a younger officer under his wing and shows kindness to Shu (in his own way) and can seem reluctant to carry out orders. (Take note, however, that he still carries those orders out, due to the fact that he thinks it's the proper thing to do). Tabool, however, becomes what one could call a sociopath. He begins to idolise the leader of the efforts, Hamdo, and aims to become just like him. Watching his scenes are fascinating, because it's clear that he was once just an innocent boy, as most children are, but he was so easily brainwashed. Although this anime does portray a gritty reality with brainwashed characters and other characters who are thrown into tragic situations. However, it does not leave the viewer feeling hopeless. Not only is their hope in the ending, there is also hope in the characters themselves; those characters who portray the good in society, such as Shu and Sis. It reminds us that for all of the bad that there is, there is still quite a bit of good. This anime reminded me of a quote I had read by Audrey Hepburn once. I can't quite remember the quote, but I remember it had to do with war. About how war is so unfair to children, children who have not even had time to form enemies if they were to even have any in the first place. Very few anime can blow me away with their message, but this anime did. However, it would not have been the anime that it is without the amazing portray of the characters and the breakdown of the human psyche.
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